Is Greece on your list for your next vacation and you would like to spend some unforgettable time on a Greek island? If you’ve been eyeing some of the most popular destinations, you must know by now that you cannot have it all!
When you want to make the perfect choice between 2 of the most popular Greek destinations, Santorini or Crete, there are quite a few things to take into consideration.
I should know, since I’ve been to both islands in the past years, and went through the same process you are going through right now!
Where to go if you want to spend time on the beach? Looking for incredible landscapes? What about hotels and accommodation? I’ll help you make an informed choice by providing all this information?
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Santorini or Crete: make the best choice
Useful information for when you travel to Greece
No matter which destination you will end up choosing, here is some information you will find useful for your Greece vacation.
Book your flight by checking Skyscanner.com – this is an online aggregator that will show you all the best combinations and will help you optimize prices and timetables.
- RentalCars is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save money. It is the world’s biggest online car rental servicewith over 900 car rental companies in 60,000 locations across 160 countries. Book your car for Greece here!
- Day trips and experiences can be easily booked through GetYourGuide – they have a wide selection of tours and a great cancellation policy.
- If you want an organized vacation and want to forget about having to think about timetables, flights, cars, accommodation, attractions, and whatnot, head over to Tourradar and book your next vacation. They have vacation options only for Santorini, but also packages including Athens and other islands from the Cyclades.
Don’t forget about insurance – at AardvarkCompare.com you can compare from over 30 insurance plans and find your best option.
Want a vacation by the beach?
Even though Santorini has its beaches, these are usually located on the eastern part of the island where you won’t have access to the famous caldera views many travel to the island for.
Because it is a volcanic island, Santorini has plenty of unique beaches with black pebbles, red or white sand. Perissa or Kamari are the perfect places to stay in Santorini on a budget and with access to the sea. However, you won’t find the charming white sand beautiful beaches with easy access to the sea.
Crete island, on the other hand, has unbelievable places like the Balos Lagoon or Elafonisi Beach with Caribbean-like water and sand. No matter which part of the island you choose to stay in, chances are you will be close to a sandy beach.
Verdict: if you want perfect beaches, choose Crete
Going for a special occasion?
While Crete has plenty of charming small towns, less explored towns on its Eastern part, or world-renown destinations such as Chania or Rethimno, Santorini is simply at a whole other level.
The perfect destination for your honeymoon or any other anniversary, in Santorini you will find not only state-of-the-art hotels, Michelin star restaurants, but also unique settings for your photos. You can go on a sunset wine tasting tour, ride the catamaran into the sunset (Check out this great option here!), or even splurge on a helicopter ride over the Cyclades.
Another thing that makes Santorini special is the fact that the volcano’s caldera here is the only inhabited one in the world – just one of the many fun facts about Greece and Santorini.
Santorini is the go-to Greek island for couples that are looking to have an unforgettable holiday.
Verdict: For a special occasion or celebration, I would always recommend Santorini
Traveling on a budget?
While Crete might be a better choice for those that want to travel in peak season, Santorini can offer the option of a budget vacation.
If you know when to travel and what area of the island to choose to stay in, book everything in advance, and rent an apartment with a kitchenette, you can make Santorini work as well.
Follow my guide about finding the best cheap hotels with caldera views and you will even afford to stay with a breathtaking view over the Aegean Sea.
That being said, it is much easier to find great deals for a vacation in Crete, no matter when you go. Additionally, food and other expenses are lower in Crete (in most parts of the island) than in Santorini.
Verdict: While Santorini is manageable, Crete is the better choice when you want to travel on a budget.
Are you traveling with kids?
As mentioned previously, Santorini island has plenty of beaches. However, these are not particularly child-friendly, and they are not recommended for people that don’t know how to swim either.
On top of that, since it is a honeymoon preferred destination, on the island you will find plenty of adult-only hotels, or hotels and attractions perfect for couples – less so for kids.
Verdict: That being said, Crete would be the best option when traveling with kids.
Looking for all-inclusive packages?
That’s one concept you surely won’t find in Santorini. Most hotels offer breakfast only, but you will have plenty of authentic and high-class restaurants to choose from on the island.
While I don’t suggest you choose this kind of package when traveling to Greece, I’m sure that Crete might offer something for you. With such a wide variety of restaurants and delicious food, you won’t want to eat every day in the same place.
Verdict: Go for Crete if you want an all-inclusive package or breakfast and dinner.
Getting around the island
Crete is the biggest island in Greece and it would be hard to get around by public transportation. That’s why it is absolutely a necessity to rent a car as soon as you land on the island.
Additionally, because distances are quite big, you will find yourself spending a lot of time on the road, and most probably you won’t get to see it all in just one week.
Santorini, on the other hand, is a small island with a good public transportation system. Even so, it would be easier to book private tours, an ATV, or at least a private transfer from the airport to your hotel. You can do all that here!
Verdict: Santorini is easier to get around and you won’t spend too much time on the road.
Activities on the island
Both islands have plenty of activities on display and you definitely won’t have time to get bored no matter which vacation you choose.
From Crete you can even book a one-day ferry trip in Santorini, just to have a taste and decide whether you want to go back at a future time.
For Santorini island, you will most probably manage to do and see it all in one week. However, you could spend two weeks or more in Crete without seeing it all.
Both islands have important Minoan historic sites you can explore (Akrotiri in Santorini and Knossos in Heraklion), perfect for history lovers.
Verdict: choosing the right island is totally up to you depending on the type of vacation you want to have, and what you like to do.
Accessibility to and from the island
Since they are both on the top of Greek islands, Santorini and Crete have great connections and numerous flights linking them to most destinations in Europe.
Additionally, there is no significant difference between the time spent flying to one island or the other, since they are relatively close to one another.
Verdict: Whichever one you choose, you will find it easy to get there.
Other useful Greece resources
- 1 day in Santorini – an easy itinerary
- The ultimate list of things to do in Oia, Santorini
- 3 days in Santorini – the ultimate guide
- One week in Santorini
- Monemvasia, Peloponnese hidden gem
- Athens in 2 days itinerary
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